HC Deb 24 July 1969 vol 787 cc2190-4

Lords Amendment No. 1: In page 6, leave out lines 24 to 33 and insert: (a) to carry passengers by stage carriage or express carriage on any read within Greater London, and with the consent of the Minister on any road outside Greater London, but the Minister shall not give his consent under this paragraph unless satisfied that there are exceptional circumstances which make it desirable that the Executive should carry passengers by stage carriage or express carriage on a particular route outside Greater London; (b) to carry passengers by contract carriage on roads within Greater London, and where the passengers consist of a pleasure party of persons employed by the Council, with or without their families or friends, within a radius of 100 miles from Charing Cross; (bb) to carry passengers by any form of rail or water transport (including hovercraft) within, to or from Greater London and, so far as is requisite in connection with the exercise of their powers under this paragraph, between places outside Greater London.

The Joint Parliamentary Secretary to the Ministry of Transport (Mr. Bob Brown)

I beg to move, That this House doth disagree with the Lords in the said Amendment.

The effect of this Amendment and Lords Amendment No. 2, in page 6, line 35, leave out "or (b)" and insert "(b) or (bb)", carried on a Division by the Opposition in another place is to alter completely the arrangements proposed in the Bill for the operation of bus services by the new London Transport Executive. Under the terms of subsection (1)(a), as originally drafted, the Executive will have a capacity power to carry passengers by any form of land or water transport within, to or from Greater London, and under subsection (1)(b), as originally drafted, it will be able in certain limited cases to carry passengers to points outside Greater London. The Amendment leaves the provisions relating to railways and water transport virtually untouched, but would limit the carriage of passengers by bus very substantially.

In relation to regular bus services, the power to carry would be tied to Greater London itself, with the consent of the Minister required for operation on any road outside Greater London—with the proviso that the consent should be given only if there are exceptional circumstances which make operation on a particular route desirable. In relation to contract carriage services, the power to carry would again be tied to Greater London, with an exception for parties of the G.L.C.'s employees, who could be carried within a radius of 100 miles from Charing Cross. In general, the carrying powers of the Executive would be tied to Greater London in rather the same way that, at the moment, under provisions deriving from the 1933 Act, they are tied to the London Passenger Transport area.

This limitation is quite unacceptable. Its effect would be to place on the L.T.E. restrictions that at the moment apply neither to the P.T.E.s nor to local authority operators under the terms of the 1968 Act. As a matter of basic principle it must be resisted on the ground that the L.T.E. has a duty, in the light of the policy guidelines laid down by the G.L.C., to provide such services as are required to meet the needs of Greater London, and this cannot be discharged by an unrealistic limitation on its commercial and operating freedom. As the White Paper made clear, there should be no formal or geographical limits to its powers of operation.

Greater London certainly has transport needs outside its own area. The catchment area for commuter travel is wide, and the L.T.E. should have freedom to develop its services to meet these needs. No one intends that it should run all over the country. But Ministerial consent for running on any route outside Greater London would be a massive limitation upon it. The issue of what services the Executive should seek to develop is one for the Council and the Executive to work out, and not one on which the Minister should intervene in the way proposed.

Mr. Michael Heseltine (Tavistock)

I did not find the argument of the Parliamentary Secretary any more convincing today than on the previous six or seven times that I have heard it—although he reads his brief better now than he used to do. It would be futile for me to repeat the arguments which fully justified their Lordships in the stand that they took. I therefore merely repeat that we do not agree with the Minister. We believe that their Lordships are quite right. Although we shall not ask hon. Members on this side of the House to vote, we are totally convinced that the case that we have argued still stands.

Amendment disagreed to.

Further Lords Amendment disagreed to.

Lords Amendment No. 3: In page 8. line 12, after "(d)" insert "(i)".

6.15 p.m.

Mr. Bob Brown

I beg to move, That this House doth disagree with the Lords in the said Amendment.

The effect of the Amendment is to place upon the London Transport Executive an obligation, in exercising its manufacturing powers conveyed under the Bill, to act as if it were a company engaged in a commercial enterprise. Without going into the details of the proceedings in another place I can say that the situation that has now arisen is that the Government, while accepting that some further safeguards should be applied to ensure that the Executive does not compete unfairly, are not prepared for this to be achieved by way of the application of the commercial obligation contained in the Amendment. The Government feel that the right course is to taken action on Clause 12 to require the publication of financial results of this sort of trading by the Executive and also to lay this activity open to the possibility of Ministerial intervention.

Mr. Heseltine

I do not wish to detain the House. Once again I say that in this Amendment their Lordships are quite correct. We have argued this case at great length, and although I do not wish to divide on the Amendment I must point out that we have no reason to change the views that we have already expressed.

Lords Amendment disagreed to.

Remaining Lords Amendments agreed to.

Mr. Bob Brown

I am grateful to the hon. Member for Finchley (Mrs. Thatcher) and her colleagues for facilitating the business of the House in the way they have this evening.

Committee appointed to draw up Reasons to be assigned to the Lords for disagreeing to certain of their Amendments to the Bill: Mr. Terence Boston, Mr. Bob Brown, Mr. Neil Carmichael, Mr. Michael Heseltine, and Mrs. Margaret Thatcher; Three to be the quorum.—[Mr. Bob Brown.]

To withdraw immediately.

Reasons for disagreeing to certain of the Lords Amendments reported and agreed to; to be communicated to the Lords.

  1. HOUSING (SCOTLAND) MONEY (No. 2): 116 words
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